Nov 8, 2009

Google Books

I'm sure we've all read the press reports about Google Books over the past year and the ambitious attempt to put a kazillion books online. From time to time when doing terminology searches, I have run across useful technical dictionaries that are not part of my private library but which are at least partially viewable on Google Books. Today, for example, I discovered a searchable version of Goetzel's German to English Dictionary of Materials and Process Engineering there. The hardcopy resides permanently on my desk, but it was actually quite nice to be able to keyword search the scanned version through Google. Curious to find out how many other of my favored paper references are to be found, I did a bit of searching and make a few other nice discoveries. This might be worth a look - see if your favorites or other useful reference works are available.

Some scanned books can even be downloaded as PDF files. Just for fun, I used the GB search engine to look for fully viewable books and used the keyword Wörterbuch for the search. I came up with 3,653 hits, including interesting gems like a dictionary about bees from the year 1765. Now this isn't the sort of thing needed every day, but just a few weeks ago I got a request to translate an 18th century biology text. Google Books might very well be a useful reference source for such historical work.

I hope this sort of thing continues. When I think of how hard it used to be to find books and how much time I used to spend driving from one library to another around Southern California, I wonder what wonderful place I've woken up in. A few years ago my mother sent me a digital photo of an old theological work inherited from one of my grandfathers. The thing was in Latin and alleged to be from the 16th century (based on oral family history). With the help of online search tools it took me about ten minutes to find out what the book was, which later edition that specific book was and what historical context it fit in. That probably would have taken me a month to figure out twenty years ago, or at least a long afternoon at the Huntington Library. I suppose that if I look on Google Books I'll probably find that one too....


  1. Great post, Kevin:

    I've been using Google books for a while to find old material for the translation course I teach at DU, but I had not thought of using it to look into dictionaries. After reading your post I did a sample search for the word "dizionario", and I'm finding quite a few useful things.

    Thank you!

  2. One easy searching strategy with Google Books is to gather all your favourite dictionaries or reference books partially or totally available in "My library" and then make your terminology research within it. You could also create specialized libraries by subjects, language combinations, etc.

  3. Thanks Kevin for this post, and thank you Laura for your great idea.I use google books regularly, but passively (often a lot of general Google searches I do generate a number of links to Google Books, but I don't actively search within Google Books itself).Google Books seems to be a great resource though, akin to having City Library in the comfort of your own office.


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